December 6, 2022

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Getting to Know Alzheimer’s Disease: A Disease That Affects the Elderly

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that causes atrophy or shrinkage of the brain and works progressively (Mayo Clinic, 2022). According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia, a collection of symptoms that include decreased ability to remember and think. Alzheimer’s usually affects the elderly over 65 years of age. According to WHO (World Health Organization), Alzheimer’s disease is chronic or progressive which causes a person to experience a decline in cognitive levels such as memory, understanding, language, etc. This usually occurs due to biological aging.

The shrinkage of the brain experienced by people with Alzheimer’s causes damage to parts of the brain which then lose their function. Brain shrinkage also occurs in normal brain aging, the difference being that in Alzheimer’s disease there is shrinkage that occurs very quickly or accelerated aging. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a substantial decrease in volume gray matter and white matter in brain aging. In brief gray matter is the part of the brain that processes temporary information white matter is what connects the parts between gray matter and functions to transmit information.

The thing that distinguishes the decrease in gray matter volume in the normal aging brain from Alzheimer’s patients is the amount of atrophy (brain shrinkage). The annual rate of atrophy of the brains of people with Alzheimer’s is several times higher than that of normal aging brains. In addition, there is an annual thinning of about 0.5% of the cortex gray matter in healthy older adults, but thinning occurs more rapidly and is greater in people with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.

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Apart from depreciation on gray matterdepreciation also occurs in white matter. white matter contains glial cells and long myelinated axons, where the myelin sheath formed serves to conduct nerve impulses rapidly. So when the white matter shrinks or is damaged, the speed of the function will also decrease. As happens in people with Alzheimer’s, they experience a decline in cognitive performance such as recognizing faces and decreasing the ability to remember. They are unable to construct new memories and lose their previous knowledge. This could explain how people with Alzheimer’s can forget their loved ones, they cannot recognize faces and have no knowledge of who they are.

Every 3 seconds, 1 person in the world has dementia. The worldwide incidence of Alzheimer’s Dementia is increasing rapidly and is currently estimated to approach 46.8 or 50 million people diagnosed with Dementia in the world, 20.9 million in Asia Pacific (Alzheimer’s Disease International, World Health Organization, 2017), there are about 10 million new cases every year.

In Indonesia alone, it is estimated that there were around 1.2 million people with dementia in 2016, which will increase to 2 million in 2030 and 4 million people in 2050.

In 2016, dementia was estimated to cost USD 818 billion per year, and is predicted to increase to USD 1 trillion by 2018 and to USD 2 trillion by 2030.

So what causes Alzheimer’s disease? So far there is no main factor that causes Alzheimer’s to appear, however, the emergence of Alzheimer’s can be influenced by several factors such as age, genetics, environmental factors, lifestyle, and general health. Let’s recognize the early signs of Alzheimer’s. There are 10 signs of early Alzheimer’s that can be recognized before it becomes senile disease:

  1. Decreased memory
  2. Confusion
  3. Difficulty in performing usual tasks
  4. Difficulty doing daily activities
  5. Changes in personality or behavior
  6. Unable to follow directions
  7. There are language and communication problems
  8. Deteriorating visual-spatial ability
  9. Loss of motivation
  10. Abnormal sleep patterns
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If Alzheimer’s gets worse, it will cause individuals to become dependent on other people such as difficulty in eating, difficulty holding urination/defecation, difficulty recognizing family members, and other severe behavioral disorders. As explained above, people need to recognize, understand, raise awareness and also aware against Alzheimer’s disease. There are things that can be done to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, namely by maintaining health such as:

  1. Maintain cholesterol levels in the blood
  2. Maintain blood pressure
  3. Control diabetes
  4. Regular in exercising
  5. Inviting the brain to continue to be active, can be done in activities that stimulate the mind
  6. A healthy and balanced diet can be done by eating fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoid antioxidants, usually in green or green fruits and vegetables. orange

Until now there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, besides that there are no drugs that have effective outcomes for Alzheimer’s patients. These drugs can only reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by providing a sense of calm for the patient, thereby reducing his emotional and behavioral changes in daily life.

Therapy that can be given to Alzheimer’s patients, namely pharmacological therapy with the use of drugs and non-pharmacological therapy. Pharmacological therapy in Alzheimer’s patients is focused on three domains: maintenance of cognitive function, behavior and psychiatric symptoms. While non-pharmacological therapy is carried out to maintain cognitive function that still exists with a variety of program activities that can be provided, including relaxation therapy and physical exercise to nourish the work of the brain, as well as brain exercise.

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Alzheimer’s Indonesia. Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). October 26, 2020. Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hantke, N., Etkin, A., & O’Hara, R. (Eds.). (2020). Handbook of Mental Health and Aging. Elsevier Science.

Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia. Save the brain, care for dementia/alzheimer’s disorders (PIKUN). Selamatkan-otak-peduli-angguan-dementiaalzheimer-pikun. html

Mayo Clinic Staff. February 19, 2022. Alzheimer’s Disease. Mayo Clinic.’s%20disease%20is%20a%20progressive,person’s%20ability%20to%20function%20independently


Ailsa DC, Irfana RD, Sari KDP, Siti Khansa A., Tiara. A.